The 'fluffy' T-Rex of Dinosaur Island.
Dinosaur Island, the Aussie family film that has already caused controversy because of its depiction of feathered dinosaurs, will be exhibited theatrically by Hoyts.
The film follows the plight of Lucas (Darius Williams) a 13 year old boy who, through a series of extraordinary circumstances, finds himself stranded on a strange island populated by prehistoric creatures alongside abandoned objects from different times. It’s here he meets a young girl (Kate Rasmussen) who claims she is from the 1950s. Together they set out on a quest to get home, while uncovering secrets that have the power to change the future.
The concept was conceived three years ago by Emmy award winning creature effects expert Matt Drummond while he was living in Vanuatu.
“I had been working on a string of documentaries featuring dinosaurs for American cable networks such as National Geographic, History and Discovery Channels (Prehistoric America, Life After People, Prehistoric Predators), and during the GFC many visual effects/production companies were flailing and I decided it was time to diversify and look into other avenues,” Drummond tells IF. “I had been thinking about making a film or television production for some time when I by chance ran into the legendary Hollywood producer Paul Mason, who at the time was living up the road from me in Vanuatu. He was in production on a creature feature for Anchor Bay Films and wanted to meet up to discuss the visual effects. During the conversation, I brought up with him my thoughts on creating a television show featuring dinosaurs, his response was ‘don’t do that, make a movie, making movies is easy! I’ll help any way I can.’ This was the “light bulb” moment for me. When Paul Mason tells you to make a movie, you basically make a movie! The rest is as you say, history!”
Drummond approached the filmmaking process strategically, researching what Australian films were selling as well as charting audience reactions to films that had been released.
“Notably, after a particular Australian movie had ‘flopped’ at the Australian Box Office and an article had been written about it in a leading Australian newspaper, there had been over 800 comments from readers discussing the topic of Australian films,” Drummond says. “Most of the comments stated that the audience just wanted to be entertained and that Australian films were depressing etc. They were sick of watching 1970’s styled outback settings and films that were loaded with slang which they felt no longer represented the Australian lexicon.
“This research heavily influenced how I went about our filmmaking model. I considered our audience first as being the distributors and sales agents. If I couldn’t appeal to them and get them excited about the film then our final audience, the actual cinema goers were never even going to see it.”
Once Drummond felt he had a sustainable and flexible model in place, he began the screenwriting process with his partner Megan Williams. He cast two Australian newcomers in the lead roles and production commenced in Vanuatu, a decision which ended up being instrumental to the film’s completion.
“Shooting in a third world country was a major advantage. I was never told ‘no,’” he says. “Living in this type of environment, the locals use what they have and their ingenuity is unending.
“An example of this is when I needed a plane to shoot on, I called up a friend and an hour later received a call back saying ‘you can use the Boeing 737, it’s on the tarmac on Tuesday – how many people will we need to process through customs?’
“This is the attitude I took back to Australia to shoot the remaining scenes and commence post production.”
The film has also garnered some pre-release publicity due to the fact the dinosaurs in it are feathered – including a rather fluffy T-Rex.
“While researching early on it was very clear I needed a point of difference. Recent discoveries in china of feathered tyrannosaur species such as Yutyrannus Huali, Guanlong Wucaii and Dilong Paradoxus all provide us with solid evidence that Tyrannosaurs like other theropods had feathers,” Drummond says. “My previous documentary work had allowed me to collaborate with various palaeontologists over the years and theories surrounding the evidence of keratin in fossils led me to explore the addition of colour. This helped to further differentiate the Dinosaurs in the film from the traditional grey lizard look previously seen on screen.
“I had applied this thinking to the Raptors in the film based on the Australian Cassowary and to our Sinonithosaurus character Mimos. I consider myself to be a student of nature and took inspiration for the dinosaurs from modern day birds both in appearance and behaviour.
“The raptors were animated to mimic the behaviour of birds such as Australian emus and ostriches and just like the modern day bower bird, in the film they are attracted to blue objects.
“As these dinosaurs presented a new look, it was decided to push the Tyrannosaur in this direction as well.
“As I was hoping to release before Jurassic World, we also wanted to be the first ever film to feature feathered dinosaurs, this gave us a great angle for publicity and a clear point of difference.”
It certainly had the effect Drummond was after, with dinosaur enthusiasts across the world weighing in on the debate.
“I knew there would be some controversy, especially since Colin Trevorrow’s decision not to include feathered dinosaurs in Jurassic World, but we had no idea it would garner the attention it has,” he says. “There are a lot of very dedicated dinosaur enthusiasts across the globe who have a lot to say and it is a great thing the film has sparked that debate.
“It is however a children’s film with an audience for 6-12 year olds and managing the expectations of adult audiences who want to see ANY film with dinosaurs in it can be a challenge. However overall, I am thrilled with the publicity and as they say “Any news is good news.” Let’s just say it has certainly ‘ruffled some feathers.’”
Hoyts will exclusively exhibit the film nationally on February 14, 2015 and have also backed it with promotional commitment throughout their Hoyts Plus brand.
Arclight Films acquired the international sales rights to the film at the Cannes Film Festival and it has been acquired internationally in over 50 countries for both theatrical/DVD/VOD and network commitments. Notably, Millennium Films have recently acquired the film rights for North American release in 2015.
Pinnacle Entertainment has acquired the rights for DVD/Network and VOD platforms in Australia for release on April 1.
Dinosaur Island was 100 per cent independently financed.
View the trailer below: